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HUM Seminar History and Arts


Admission requirements

Admission to the cluster through application via the head of the programme board.


Popular culture provided a temporary escape from Tokugawa control in early modern Japan. Starting in the 1830s, this changed as historical realities could no longer be ignored – the weather was bad, the land suffered widespread starvation and epidemics, Edo was hit by an earthquake, and formerly closed ports were opened. Historical realities were no laughing matter but popular media such as prints and printed books used humour and satire to grapple with harsh realities, celebrating people’s resilience against disaster. In addition, people felt a combined sense of threat and curiosity in encountering new foreign things, and rumours flourished as they were spread through illicit broadsheets. We will explore four key themes to get an insight into how the popular imagination grappled with historical realities: 1) news and rumours, 2) disaster and precarious life in Edo, 3) satire and political consciousness, 4) challenges from the outside. We will use secondary sources in English and Japanese, and some primary sources (printed books) in the collection of Leiden University library.

Course objectives

This course aims to train students in
1) critical use of English and Japanese academic texts to make an argument,
2) critical analysis of primary sources including texts and images,
3) acquiring object literacy, meaning an understanding of how popular media (prints, printed books) contributed to shaping people’s ideas about historical realities.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Participation (attendance of minimally 70%; minimally 5 webpostings out of 6; participation in discussing the texts in class, research paper presentation): 50%

  • Research paper (3,000 words): 50%

  • The research paper must use minimally five sources and include one Japanese academic article that is minimal 12 pages long.

Reading list

Not applicable


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.


Dr. D. Müller

M.M.E. Buijnsters


Not applicable